Wait, what is this website?  Upper Cumberland Weather?? What is this???

This is all explained in the video I posted to Facebook, but many of you reading this may not have had the time to watch it — after all, it’s about 34 minutes long — so, I don’t blame you for coming here, instead.

However, there is much to discuss, so this may not be a quick read unless you skim through it, which means you may miss some important details, and there are quite a few things said here that I really don’t want you to miss.

Now that we’ve established all of that, let’s get into the nitty gritty of what these “big changes” are all about…

First of all, Smith County Weather continues to exceed my expectations in growth.  We’re very close to hitting 5,000 page likes on Facebook, which is mind-blowing to me.  The Twitter page isn’t doing too bad, either.  It currently has over 1,200 followers — a number I would love to see grow much higher because of the platform’s greater ‘real-time’ capabilities that are far superior to that of Facebook’s, which is critical during times of severe weather — but 1,200 followers is still impressive.

As great as Twitter is for I’m trying to do, however, Facebook is far more popular, and thus, it is critical that I work on making the product I communicate there more fine-tuned to take full advantage of the platform’s strengths and capabilities.

This is not something I have been doing a great job at.

When I launched Smith County Weather back in 2012, everything was totally different.  Facebook’s algorithms filtered out far less content than they do now, which translated into your news feed showing more posts from the pages and people you followed, and it was much easier to see posts in chronological order.

Additionally, Smith County Weather had a small following (about 100 hundred people within the first few days, up to 1,000 by summer 2013, less than a year after launch).  Those factors meant that the majority of posts being made were reaching the target audience within a reasonable amount of time, which was great during severe weather, as timeliness is extremely important and perhaps life-saving when a Severe Thunderstorm or Tornado Warning is issued.

Over time, Smith County Weather’s following has grown leaps and bounds, and Facebook has made their algorithms so strict that running a page like mine in which its entire goal revolves around communicating time-sensitive information to a large audience is unrealistic.

However, I have continued to provide said information with very few changes in format.

And it’s ineffective.

Let me give you a scenario:

Severe weather has been forecast for a couple of days, and from what I can tell, the majority of you are at least aware of it to some degree.  The potential severe weather day comes, and those of you who have been keeping up with the forecast will be keeping an eye on your *news feed* throughout the day to see if Smith County Weather has anything to say.

On my end, I’m posting updates throughout the day.  From the administrative side, Facebook shows me a bar that displays the total ‘reach’ of each post, which lets me know how many people have seen that particular update.  Most posts to this point — we’ll say around lunchtime — have been doing decently with an average reach of around 1,000 to 2,000 people.  However, a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued, and instead of posting every hour or two, I’m now posting every five minutes.  The post reach drops substantially.  Facebook’s algorithms are detecting excessive posting on my end, so they aren’t letting everything through to the majority of news feeds.  Because of this, only 100 people or so out of over 4,800 are seeing each post within 15 minutes of it being posted.  The reach will slowly go up, but by the time 500 to 1,000 people finally see it, the storm will have been gone for a few hours or more, which makes it completely redundant at that point.

On your end, you started scrolling through your news feed when you heard thunder and found a few of the updates, but by the time you saw them, that information was outdated by as much as a half hour.

This is the problem and why big changes need to be made.  The way I have been running Smith County Weather for the past five years, at least on Facebook, just doesn’t work anymore.

The good news is: Facebook actually has a solution to this, and it’s a really neat one.

Last year, Facebook Live was introduced, which allows any page to broadcast a live stream from virtually anywhere using a smartphone or computer.

Facebook also gives priority to live streams, allowing them to pop up on news feeds as soon as a stream is initiated.

With Facebook Live, I can broadcast directly to you, well, LIVE, and communicate real-time severe weather updates accompanied by a live radar image, similar to what you see on local television, just not as produced.

This is a tool I can’t…not take advantage of.  It makes too much sense as it will allow me to reach a much larger audience in real time, which is something that can’t be matched by posting updates the way I always have during severe weather.

About a week ago, I asked y’all if there were any suggestions you had for things I could be doing differently.  One of the comments that received a few ‘likes’ requested that I keep posting updates the way I always have and not transition to live streaming.  And I get it.  There are some of you who would prefer to receive updates the old way.  You are the few who actually come directly to the page during severe weather and refresh every minute or two when storms are hitting to get the latest information as soon as it is posted.

I do not want to ignore you.

The problem is, I can’t do both live streaming and the old way of posting, either.

But there is a solution to this, and it goes back to Twitter.

I fully realize that most of you have no interest in Twitter, and I understand that.  You have Facebook and don’t want another social media platform.  The great thing is: you don’t have to create a Twitter account to follow along with Smith County Weather’s updates during severe weather!  Simply open the page in your browser and keep up with it during severe weather.  This doesn’t require you to have an account, although having an account is something I would recommend.

The great thing with Twitter is that the updates are and will continue to be posted the way I do them on Facebook, except Twitter’s algorithms aren’t nearly as harsh as those on Facebook, and it’s very easy to keep up with what’s being posted (tweeted) in real time.

Because it’s a friendlier platform for content posting, I tend to update it more during severe weather than I do Facebook. For example, I may post two updates to Facebook in a 15 minute period during severe weather, but I might tweet out five updates on Twitter during that same period, because I know those updates are actually reaching my audience.

Currently, I’m only planning on doing live streams during more significant severe weather events, such as outbreaks or when we know a line of strong storms will be moving through.  The typical, pop up thunderstorms we see in the summer that can go severe most likely won’t get the live stream treatment, and for a variety of reasons.  For those situations, I’ll probably stick to the old way of updating, at least for the time being.

So, in summary, Facebook will be transitioning to live streaming during bigger severe weather events while Twitter will continue to feature me posting the traditional way you have come to expect.

And that’s not even the meat of the big changes that are coming.

You’re probably wondering what Upper Cumberland Weather is, and that’s the biggest change of all that I’m making.

I am transitioning the Smith County Weather Facebook page to Upper Cumberland Weather.

That’s a mighty statement I just made, and I know it raises a ton of questions.

First and foremost, I am NOT giving up on Smith County, no sir.  I mean, I LIVE HERE! MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS LIVE HERE!

Upper Cumberland Weather is an expansion upon what I’ve been doing with Smith County Weather and will allow me to reach a much larger audience and do bigger and better things that are currently impossible for a multitude of reasons.

12 counties will be covered by Upper Cumberland Weather.  Those counties include Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Macon, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Smith, Troudsale and White.

Smith County will receive no less treatment than it always has.  I mean, even as Upper Cumberland Weather grows, Smith County will always constitute a significant number of followers.  And especially with live streaming, it will be easy to cover Smith County during severe weather and then continue my coverage as storms impact areas east of us.

For Smith County, not a whole lot is changing.  You’re just getting live streaming updates, and forecast discussions will encompass a larger area.

For the rest of the Upper Cumberland counties I’m covering, under-served communities will now have a reliable place for severe weather updates.

Additionally, this website (UpperCumberlandWeather.com) will feature a daily weather blog similar to the old Smith County Weather site.

(and yes, this means GIFs will be returning!)

On Facebook, I will be doing a live stream weekday mornings at around 7 or 8 (details TBA).  We’ll talk about the day’s weather and what’s coming up using model images and other neat graphics, and you’ll be able to ask questions.

Both the website and morning live streams will be supported by advertisers.

You see, I have been operating Smith County Weather at a loss now for nearly five years.  I’m not at all complaining about this, but I have never taken a dime for my services.  Even the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways we did late last year, which was supported by advertisers, did not translate into cash in my pocket.  All of the money went solely toward the prizes given away.

That weather radio giveaway I did last summer?

I paid for that out of my own pocket.

I have taken off work from my real job on at least a few occasions to cover potentially really bad severe weather — one of those days being December 23, 2015, when Lancaster was hit with a tornado.

That’s money I didn’t make.

I have poured literally thousands of hours into Smith County Weather.  That’s time I’ve missed with family and friends.

Even on Christmas morning 2015, before I could spend time with my family, I was on Facebook and Twitter covering a severe thunderstorm that was moving through the county.

And again, I’m not complaining about any of that because I absolutely love doing this!

But…

It’s tough to keep doing this without some sort of financial element involved, especially when I want to continue growing and getting better.  There are so many cool things I want to do, but cool things cost money, and while I’m not opposed to spending money on what I do, it’s sometimes tough to justify.

I’ve thought about creating a Patreon account for those of you who wouldn’t mind contributing to my efforts, but I don’t know… It’s not an idea I’m big on, especially given the relatively small scale of what I’m doing and where I’m doing it, if that makes any sense.

By featuring advertisers on the website and on the daily live streams, that will allow me to have the funding to support the resources I want to pursue and also make doing this a little more worthwhile, especially with the expansion to 12 counties.

The transition to Upper Cumberland Weather will promote future growth and allow me to do some of the things I really want to do — things I can’t do if I stick to just Smith County.

And just on a personal level, I want to grow.  Many of you know that I’m pursuing a career in broadcast meteorology.  This fall, I’ll be a senior at MTSU.  I’m currently studying journalism (broadcasting), and upon graduating next year, I plan on seeking a graduate’s degree in meteorology.

The thing is, I will be entering into a highly competitive field, and this will be at a time when broadcast network ratings are dwindling.  Smartphones and computer technology are taking over, and I just so happen to have a relatively large social media following in the field I want to enter into.

From my perspective, it just makes sense to grow what I already have and at least try to turn it into something really big!

Who knows, I may just have a career here! (wishful thinking, anyway…)

Not all of Smith County Weather is going away, either.  The Twitter page will continue on, as well as the Trousdale Severe Weather sister page.

Only the Smith County Weather Facebook page is transitioning to Upper Cumberland Weather.

This change will take effect probably sometime in June.  I may not even announce when exactly it will happen, so just keep a look out.

Daily blog posts here on the site will begin sometime in the next week or two.  The daily live videos will probably begin when the Facebook page officially makes the transition.  A couple of reasons for the delay have to do with internet issues that need to be resolved to make the streams possible, in addition to giving adequate time for virtually everyone following Smith County Weather to hear about the change so no one freaks out when it happens!

I hope you all stick around for Upper Cumberland Weather.  I’m ecstatic for this change, and you should be, too!  Nothing big is changing here.  Smith County will still be covered as it always has on Facebook.  It’s just that more counties will be added, but with that addition comes some cool new things, like this website and live video streaming, among other things coming down the road!  For those wanting traditional updates, the Smith County Weather Twitter page isn’t going anywhere and never will be.

Upper Cumberland Weather will have its own Twitter account, although my ultimate plans for it are still being ironed out.

As far as the Smith County Weather Twitter page’s operations are concerned, I actually have someone lined up to potentially help out with running it, at least every now and then.  Details on that will be revealed at a later date.

And if you’re a weather nerd and think you have what it takes to help out with Smith County Weather on Twitter, let me know!  The more help, the better!

Thank you all so much for the support you have shown me the past five years.  I thanked several people in the video I made, which I think better explains everything I’m planning on doing, but I realize not all of you have the time to watch it — not that this post isn’t ridiculously long, too!

I’ve covered a ton of stuff here, but I know I’ve probably left out a few things.  Again, I ask for your continued support and also for your prayers as I embark on this new journey.  I don’t know what God has in store for me and Upper Cumberland Weather, but I trust Him and will follow Him wherever He guides me!

If you have a business or know someone with a business and want to advertise, please get in touch with me either through private message on Facebook or by calling or texting 615-735-7925.  This will be a phenomenal opportunity for businesses to receive exposure both here on the website and on the daily morning videos coming in June that will easily receive hundreds, perhaps over a thousand or more views each day, especially with nearly 5,000 people already following the page, which will only continue to grow!